Millennials Abandon Cars for Public Transit
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 11:10
New smartphone apps such as Hailo, Hopstop and Uber are revolutionizing travel in cities across the nation, causing a shift from personal cars to other methods of travel.
A report released last Tuesday from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group indicated that technology and public transportation innovations in the last 15 years have provided Americans with more attractive alternatives to driving. According to PIRG Senior Policy Analyst Phineas Baxandall, this shift has been largely driven by millennials — especially university students.
“For young professionals and college students, the fact that people are using technology this way isn’t news,” Baxandall said.
As examples, Baxandall pointed to the GPS-tracking availability of many public transportation options, allowing riders to plan trips in a more time-efficient manner. In Washington, D.C., smartphone apps can indicate the location of the next bus, the next Metro train, the location of the nearest Zipcar or how many bicycles are available at the nearest Capital Bikeshare station.
A Washington Post poll this summer found that 89 percent of respondents said they used a car to travel around either nearly all, most or some of the time, in contrast to 94 percent from 2005. In addition, among commuters, 67 percent of respondents said that they usually drove alone to work, a decrease from 70 percent in 2005.
Similarly, the District Department of Transportation has found that 38.5 percent of D.C. households do not own cars. According to the PIRG report, from 2001 to 2009, millennials were 23 percent less likely to drive.
“I wouldn’t need a car if I lived in a city,” Alex Kuhar (COL ’15) said. “With parking, traffic and everything else, it’s just unnecessary. Of course, it depends on the kinds of public transportation available, but a car in a city like D.C. or New York City just doesn’t make any sense nowadays.”
University Information Services Communications Manager Laura Horton agreed and said that the GPS tracking service available for SafeRides vans and Georgetown University Transportation Shuttles has been reflective of this trend.
“There are more phases to come,” Horton said. “That's something the university really vaules, and the [Capital] Bikeshare program, ZipCar, Uber are part of that commitment as well — we’re trying to give students lots of options.”
UIS Mobile Programs Manager Lee Emmert added that an average of approximately 450 unique visitors use the NextGUTS app each day, which is the most popular feature of the Georgetown mobile app.
As current university policy prohibits students from bringing cars to campus, the administration has been working to improve transportation alternatives for students.
For example, Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey, the Department of Public Safety and private company Ridescout are working together to develop a smartphone app that would combine information about Georgetown transportation and D.C. public transportation.
“You can literally put in where you start your trip and where you end your trip, and it will give you different options on how to get there,” Morey said.
The current Ridescout app, available on iPhone and Android, shows public, private and social methods of transportation, including bus, rail, taxi, Capital Bikeshare, Car2Go and SideCar. In addition, Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Business Services Joelle Wiese said that the university was discussing how to incorporate services such as ZipCar into its broader transportation strategy.
“We see the development and design of these features as a continually iterative process,” Emmert said. “So even as we speak right now, we’re continuing to make improvements.”